I don’t usually do this, but I have to recommend a magazine to you. Pictured above is the cover of a current double issue from Time Magazine entitled “240 Reasons to Celebrate America Right Now.” I love what I've read so far.
What makes any country great still beats from America’s heart. It’s not hate or a condemning spirit; it’s a creative, life-giving spirit of respect and brotherly/sisterly love that encourages everyone to go after life in healthy ways.
In his famous work “Democracy in America” (1833) Alexis de Tocqueville may not have directly said, “America is great because America is good” – but it’s the gist of his observations and there is truth in the idea. Goodness of heart is our deepest treasure. Mining the gold there takes being thoughtful, especially when fear is high. As Franklin Delano Roosevelt said so well, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” Action driven by fear without the creativeness and care of respect and love tends to do more harm than good. History is full of examples, including some recent ones which created more problems for us than they solved.
One of my parishioners once gave me a flag quilt and called me the most patriotic pastor she’d ever known. That meant a lot to me at the time because it was after I’d publicly read part of a United Methodist Bishop’s letter asking President Bush not to invade Iraq (a month before we invaded). The letter recommended moving forward slowly with the thoughtful process the United Nations was recommending at the time (February, 2003). The gist of the letter was - Slow down. Be thoughtful. Make sure. Don’t make things worse. Strengthen the team of those who are trying to be about what would be best for all and then work together. That’s how to face evil in whatever form evil presents itself. (You can read the letter if you want at http://bwcumc.org/letter-to-president-bush/).
Being thoughtful is not a weakness; it is a strength that looks down the road. It is about being careful or full of care for ourselves and others the way God cares for everybody. One of the first steps in doing so is making sure that we are not reacting fearfully with a malicious spirit that is blind to anyone’s heritage as a child of God, even if they are lost in fear and/or hate. The goal is to invite people back into the respectful, loving ways that create a sense of being at home with one another - or at the very least - keep them from destroying the homes of others while we try to honor their right to a home too (which reduces their fear of us). One of the under-girding goals of love is to reduce fear, not increase it. We should never be out to demonize anybody.
I've only read part of it but I already value the issue of Time Magazine above; it captures the spirit of home-making respect and creative love that is at work in many communities around our nation. That spirit is truly a beautiful thing that is bringing out beauty among us. Let’s feed efforts like those rather than feeding fear. That's where further greatness lies for America and our world.
Thanks for journeying together.